Advice from Big Apple Too Much to Stomachby Staff
Tri-City Herald, August 17, 2003
New York is a great city, but having the newspaper of record for its five paved-over boroughs lecture Westerners on the environment is more than a little irksome.
Galling might be a better word for the New York Times' editorial on Aug. 10, casually suggesting the removal of the four hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River.
Surely, the gray lady's editorial board members meant well, gazing down at the concrete below their Times Square offices and ruminating on how the rest of us ought to clean up our acts to honor the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
"Here and there," along the Corps of Discovery's 8,000-mile route, "are ecosystems that, though scarred by commerce, could well be restored ..." the Times editorial board suggested. There was no mention that Lewis and Clark were looking for a transcontinental trade route to promote the sort of commerce that the editorial derides.
From the perspective of just about anywhere beyond Manhattan, the comments were another example of misplaced New York arrogance. You probably didn't have to travel any further west of the Hudson than New Jersey to hear a few guffaws, since the Garden State receives a portion of New York's trash flow.
None of the mountain of garbage churned out by New Yorkers -- 12,000 tons a day -- stays in the city. It would take 8,500 Volkswagen Beetles to equal the weight of a single day's trash leaving New York. Parked end to end, the Beetles would stretch more than 21 miles.
And that's just the garbage. According to the New York League of Conservation Voters, New York City, with less than 1 percent of the state's acreage, accounts for 36 percent of the total gallons and 27 percent of the total pounds of pesticides used statewide.
But having New Yorkers lecture the nation on environmental practices turned out to be just one of the ironies embedded in the Times editorial.
We can't help but wonder how the idea of pulling the plug on the Snake River dams' 1,250 megawatts of power generation -- enough to power Seattle -- looked this week when power failures across the East left 50 million people without power?
Perhaps New Yorkers today have a different opinion about living life as if it were Lewis and Clark's day.
Of course, New York's problems don't make preserving our natural heritage a bad idea. Conservation is in the best interests of the West and the rest of the nation.
But as Westerners, we don't quite see ourselves the same as the Times does -- despoilers of a landscape that ought to be preserved for New Yorkers' summer getaways.
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